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Everything you need to know about glaucoma in dogs

Black  and white french bulldog advice
© Pixabay

Glaucoma in dogs is another term for high pressure in the eye or eyes. Sometimes glaucoma occurs by itself, and sometimes it is a development from another illness. Untreated, the condition can become very serious. It may cause discomfort, visual problems, or even blindness.

By G. John Cole

The disease is quite common in dogs, especially certain breeds. It is not easy to prevent glaucoma, which is why it is important to look out for the signs of its development and take action if necessary.

What are the types of glaucoma in dogs?

Glaucoma happens when there is an imbalance of the fluid (known as aqueous humour) between a dog’s lens and his cornea. This should drain naturally, but if it doesn’t – or if he over-produces this fluid – the pressure builds, and the eye starts to become misshapen.

Dogs can suffer from three types of glaucoma.

Primary glaucoma in dogs is often genetic. The shape of the dog’s eye prevents it from draining as it should. This especially starts to appear in middle age, and affects both eyes at once.

The most common type of glaucoma in dogs is secondary glaucoma. This type is the result of something else going wrong: another illness or injury such as a tumour, blood clot, or lens damage, that causes pressure to increase in the eye.

Secondary glaucoma itself is not genetic, since it develops as a result of other causes. But those causes can include inherited diseases, so again this type of glaucoma is common in certain breeds.

The final type is congenital glaucoma. It is rare and only effects young puppies. But it is still serious and you need to deal with it.

Which dog breeds are most affected by glaucoma?

Several breeds are particularly susceptible to glaucoma, so you should check if your dog is on the list. Common breeds who suffer from glaucoma include: the Dalmatian, husky, spaniel, poodle, basset hound, beagle, Boston terrier, and greyhound.

But because secondary glaucoma can be caused by injuries, it can happen to any dog.

Symptoms of glaucoma in dogs

As it is impossible to prevent glaucoma, you should instead look out for glaucoma symptoms in your dog so you can take him to the vet as early as possible.

Glaucoma is painful. If your dog’s eye is sensitive, he keeps it closed, or rubs at it with his paw, take a closer look. The difference in the eyelid or the size of the pupil between his eyes can be subtle, so look carefully. If he resists, it may be because he is in pain.

If your dog has glaucoma, this inspection could reveal watery discharge from his eye or eyes. It could be red and swollen, consistent with increased pressure. And he might seem to find bright light painful. If his eyes are more bulgy than usual, the pair of you should visit the vet.

Have a close look at the transparent front part of each of his eyes. These are the corneas, and may turn blue-tinted or cloudy-looking if he is suffering from glaucoma.

And finally, of course if your dog has trouble seeing you should seek help. It may well be glaucoma or some other serious issue that needs addressing.

Do not delay if you see these symptoms in your dog. While it is possible for symptoms to advance slowly, sudden onset glaucoma – known as ‘acute glaucoma’ – can do irreversible damage to your dog’s eyes in just a few hours. You should consider it an emergency.

What are the implications of glaucoma in dogs?

If your dog’s vet spots glaucoma in his eyes, she may refer him immediately to a specialist to prevent further damage and discomfort. This will reduce the chances of the illness spreading to his other eye.

She may use a combination of surgery and medication to reduce the pressure in your dog’s eye or eyes. Your dog could lose his sight. If this happens, or nothing else works, the vet may remove his eye to relieve your dog’s discomfort.

Some natural treatments for glaucoma in dogs

While treatment of glaucoma should always be trusted to a vet – and as quickly as possible – there are natural resources you can use to improve your dog’s general eye health.

Spinach, carrots, and other sources of vitamin C are all good for a dog’s eyes.

And herbs such as Bilberry, rosemary, and burdock may help. It is possible to make an infusion of these herbs and use it as an eyewash.

But as a final, final reminder: if you see symptoms of glaucoma in your dog, contact his vet immediately.